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French president visits Statue of Liberty

Associated Press
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy converse in front of the Statue of Liberty before taking part in a ceremony in anticipation of the 125th anniversary of the monument on Liberty Island, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy converse in front of the …

NEW YORK (AP) — The president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, visited the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor on Thursday to celebrate his nation's centuries-long friendship with the United States.

Sarkozy, accompanied by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, stepped off a ferry and addressed a small crowd of dignitaries in a courtyard on Liberty Island, the statue rising up behind them.

"It is not simply a statue," Sarkozy said in French, according to a translator. "It is a notion, an idea, an emblem. It is for all people of the world."

Sarkozy, who is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, said France and the United States share bonds of blood and a common value of freedom. He paid tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, saying New York was targeted because the city stands for liberty. He said the nearly 3,000 victims are "also the dead of the French people."

Both leaders hailed the statue, a gift from France to the U.S., as a symbol of freedom around the world.

"The statue greeted some of my own ancestors after long journeys across the Atlantic," Bloomberg said.

The mayor said the U.S. should not forget France's support during the American Revolution, "before there was an America," and Sarkozy said his country will never forget the American soldiers who died during World War II and are buried under French soil.

"They sealed the bonds of friendship forever between America and France," he said.

The visit was an early celebration of the 125th anniversary of the statue's dedication, on Oct. 28, 1886.

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